Joanne Coughlan

29 October 2018

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Tehran – it’s not what you think

I cannot recall visiting any country in any part of the world where the people are more welcoming than in Iran. This might sound like a big statement but it’s true. Within my first 24 hours in Tehran I was invited to play table tennis, asked where I was from on numerous occasions and frequently stopped with a smile, an out-stretched hand and a thickly accented and sincere, “you are welcome in Iran”. I had heard that the people were friendly but now I can confirm this is so very true and a key part of what makes travel to Iran so rewarding.

Tehran is a thriving metropolis. The Tehran population is around 10 million people with another 2 million coming in to work each day. I’m told the city is most famous for two things – pollution and chaotic traffic – but don’t let this put you off. It’s a gem of a city for travelers with so many things to see and do … way too many to list here so I’m not even going to try!

Nestled against the lower slopes of the towering snow-capped Alborz mountains, Tehran is in fact Iran’s most secular and liberal city but nonetheless, I was expecting it to be ultra-religious, a little backwards and perhaps even scary. This is certainly what our media will have us think while a certain US president would also have us believe the place is full of terrorists but this could not be further from the truth. Apart from the head coverings which all women must wear in public, Tehran could be any other modern cosmopolitan city with its shops, cafés, fast food outlets and international brands everywhere you look … but in this case, all set against more than 250 years of fascinating Iranian history.

The city is clearly divided into two. The north could be Toorak or Woollahra with beautiful streets lined with trees and expensive houses and apartments. And I mean really, really expensive – our guide tells us some of the apartments have lifts for the cars so the owners can get into their car on their own level! The south of the city is closer to what I expected but certainly not down and out. Tehran is not immediately the country’s most inviting city but those who tour Iran and take a closer look will be well rewarded.

Blue Dot Travel offers escorted three-week Iran tours for small groups.  Contact us to register your interest for future tours. 

Photos & story by Brett Goulston

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